STEM effort connects orbiting astronaut with Newport students

ASTRONAUT RICHARD ARNOLD recently became the first person to sequence RNA in space, part of an experiment onboard the International Space Station. He connected with students at Newport’s Pell Elementary School via ham radio. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND STEAM ACADEMY

NEWPORT – Third- and fourth-graders at Newport’s Pell Elementary School connected with International Space Station orbiting astronaut Richard “Ricky” Arnold live from their school gymnasium Tuesday.

Students in other grades followed along from the school cafeteria and classrooms, according to a press release from Rhode Island STEAM Academy and Copernicus STEAM Learning Lab, the event’s main organizers.

The event, billed as the first ISS contact with a public school in Rhode Island, was arranged to coincide with United Nations’ annual World Space Week. Students had the opportunity to submit questions in advance, with 20 questions chosen to be answered by Arnold – a former math and science teacher – as the space station orbits 200 miles above Earth, at 17,500 miles per hour, the statement said.

Arnold has been in space since March.

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The contact from space to Earth was made possible by the global Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program. Pell School used an amateur radio ground station in Belgium. ARISS is a joint venture that includes NASA and amateur radio organizations.

The event at the Pell School was the third time a Rhode Island school has made contact with ISS, underscoring the importance of integrated and substantive STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) in classrooms, said the press release.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.

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